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Perfect Panoramic Landscape and Equipment

Perfect Panoramic Landscape and Equipment
TrueToad 1466

Perfect Panoramic Landscape and Equipment

Nodal Rail and Leveling Base

You happen upon the most wonderful vista and wish to capture the essence of nature before you but all you have is your nifty fifty lens. How do you do it? You take a panoramic.

Smart phones have Panoramic apps that automatically snap photos and stitch a scene as you pan the phone across the horizon. Using a smart phone can be rewarding but if you wish to take your photography up several notches below is what I recommend.

I do not recommend hand holding and using built in camera Panoramic App/function - the results are unpredictable unless of course you do not mind and you are out there at the moment with nothing more - been there done that. You can get superior results with a DSLR/Mirrorless camera mounted on a tripod.

For Mirrorless and DSLR users below are my recommendations to achieve superior results at a moderate cost, and if you do panoramic often, the cost pays out in the long run as most of the gear can be use to improve your other photographic needs.

  • You need a good, steady tripod - brand matters not as long as it is steady - I personally use GITZO.
  • You need a ball head - A ball head that can hold your camera and lens combination.
  • Note: You could forgo the ball head and mount the camera direct to the leveling base.
  • You need a leveling base. While you can level the tripod a leveling base makes the task much simpler.
  • A leveling base ensures the camera rotates on a level plain which helps in post processing of the images.
  • You need a Nodal Rail. Hard to explain but in simple terms as the camera and lens is rotated to capture the vista the distant objects seem to move when the lens "nodal" point is not centered.  A tree may appear in one spot in a frame but shifted to another in the next frame.  Software may not be able to stitch the images together over several shots if the "nodal" point is off.

Most photographers have already invested in a tripod and ball head and in such cases the other two components I suggest is a nodal rail and leveling base.

What specific equipment do I recommend?

Going with two companies I would recommend Acratech for the top of the tripod and Gitzo for the tripod or Benro as a cheaper alternative, Why? Top Quality, they last for years - great investments over the long term.  If you are just starting out the Acratech GP Ball Head has three distinct features by functioning as a Ball Head, Gimbal Head, and leveling base all in one piece of kit.  The GP Ball head save you the cost of a separate leveling base.  If you don't wish to be bothered with flipping the GP Ball Head upside down for the leveling base then consider the Acratech dedicated leveling base.  All links are below.  The one thing you should consider if going with a Acratech GP Ball head is the total weight it supports - 25lbs which for most photographers should be sufficient for the long term.

Here is a video that explains the Nodal/Panoramic process better than I can write it> Acratech Video. Basically every lens has an axis point and if the axis point is not directly over the rotation point parallax will occur.  Parallax will case an object to appear to move as the camera/lens are rotated for the panoramic. Example a tree in one frame appears in a slightly different spot in the next frame - this effect can cause your images not to stitch together correctly.  A nodal rail allows you to position the lens axis directly over the center of rotation and prevent parallax.

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